World Class Leadership

Toward the end of Leadership Formation, each participant selects a world class leader for immersion study.

Criteria are intentionally vague and as a result we’ve explored the lives and leadership of people such as Steve Biddulph, Kelly Slater, Sir Winston Churchill, Marie Forleo, Pastor Brian Huston, Steve Jobs and John Quincy Adams.

The unusual diversity creates a rich base for leadership insights to emerge.

At the most recent Leadership Formation Retreat, we heard the stories of four inspiring people.

  • Elizabeth Broderick AO, who recently completed 8 years as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner and is a committed advocate for improving gender equality.
  • Louise Voigt, former long-serving CEO of Barnardos Australia whose advocacy on behalf of foster children helped introduce Open Adoptions to Australia.
  • Norman Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. An Iowa farm boy, his later research into wheat produced high yielding, disease resistant varieties introduced to Mexico, India and Pakistan in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was credited with saving many millions of lives worldwide.
  • David Griswold, founder of Sustainable Harvest, a company bringing transparency into the coffee supply chain, helping farmers move from subsistence to sustainability.

It is very confirming to see how closely their stories align with the ‘follow your bliss’ road map:

  • Notice what you care about whether it’s gender equality, or that every child deserves a safe home, or helping people feed their families and rise from poverty, each leader has commitment to something they care deeply for, over a long period of time.
  • Get started anywhere, it’s all connectedtracing back through the lives of those who eventually make significant contributions, their origins are generally humble and modest, but easy to connect to their future impact. A young female lawyer, a social worker, a farm boy or a social entrepreneur, in many ways each continued the same ‘work’ as when they started, only on a widening platform.
  • Learn as you go of course, no world class leader arrives fully formed. Whether it’s from early experience, a failed business, listening tours, or a South American farmer, every leader continues to learn and grow and to demonstrate a life-long curiosity.
  • Perseverance being courageous; willing to be unpopular in pursuit of what you believe is right; persistence in the face of institutional (Indian bureaucracy) and cultural (foster child rights) obstacles; bending rules and breaking new ground; grit, determination and even stubbornness.

The stand out insight is that leaders generate power by connecting to a deep sense of purpose or calling.

The work of Leadership Formation challenges us toward this clarity.


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When Less Is More

A great friend and fine chef first introduced me to this paradoxical idea when we were making pizzas in his brick oven.

Instead of piling toppings on an inch thick as was my habit, he suggested using less and even leaving spaces where the crust was exposed, so the whole pizza would bake crisper and taste better.

Of course he was proved right, as evidenced by my soggy pizza.

I noticed this ‘less is more’ philosophy infused more than just his cooking. Whether in selecting ingredients for simplicity and quality over quantity; the manner in which he used a light touch with his staff; or in serving smaller portions leaving guests slightly hungry but with an enhanced appreciation of the meal.

Over the years I’ve experimented with ‘less is more’ as a leadership principle.

Some of what I noticed … scarcity can draw out creativity and ingenuity; reduced busyness returns the invaluable commodity of time; less force and pressure allows natural self responsibility to develop.

And crucially, less verbiage in a blog offers more clarity!

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Proximal Relationships

It’s ofteTree on Mountainn said that leadership is lonely.

And I’ve said as much myself, but now I wonder if this maxim is true.

Or whether loneliness is a misnomer of the essential aloneness we inevitably feel as we each find our way in life?


This question came to me after spending the evening with two friends … though calling them ‘friends’ hardly does justice to the depth of relationship, experiences and worldviews we share.

We did not talk about sport or politics or weather!

We are mentors to each other, good enemies, agents in each others growth. We talk about the blessings and the difficulties and the insolubles in each others lives. We listen and encourage. We care and disagree and digress. We are irritated and refreshed.

And then we part ways and may not meet again for weeks or months. We are on our own, yet we carry the relationships within.

I think of these as proximal relationships.

And they are arguably the most vital element in our development as humans and as leaders, of at least ourselves.

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